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Job market weakens despite fall in rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland

Brexit issues: Richard Ramsey
Brexit issues: Richard Ramsey
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

There are signs of a weakening jobs market in Northern Ireland with 1,452 redundancies announced during last month, according to a report.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the jobs market was beginning to look weaker, despite the unemployment rate falling to 2.9% from around 4% on the year before.

The labour market report for October from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also said that the number of proposed redundancies for last month was at the highest level since 2003.

The collapse of Wrightbus in Ballymena resulted in 1,200 proposed redundancies - however, at least some staff are expected to return to employment after a purchase of the business by Jo Bamford.

While the 2.9% unemployment rate was down compared to the year before, it was up slightly on the previous quarter.

And the number of people working had also fallen in that period by 11,000 or 1.3% from a record high in quarter two, Mr Ramsey said.

Mr Ramsey said a weakening in the employment market was likely to continue.

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"Looking ahead, Northern Ireland's labour market is set to weaken in coming quarters given the marked deterioration in business conditions that has occurred in quarter three," he said.

"It looks increasingly likely that quarter two represented Northern Ireland's labour market peak for jobs and trough for unemployment.

"Ongoing Brexit uncertainty has been translating into negative economic and business outcomes. Ultimately these outcomes impact on investment plans, staffing levels and the labour market in general."

The unemployment rate here is below that of the UK at 3.9%, the EU rate of 6.3% and the Republic of Ireland rate of 5.3% for July.

The labour market survey also showed a fall in the percentage of people in work, to 71.5% from 72% in the previous period.

The rate of economic inactivity also rose over the quarter, to reach 26.4%, though it had fallen on the year before.

Economic inactivity - which covers people who are neither in work nor looking for work due to factors such as illness, retirement or looking after a family - is the highest in Northern Ireland of any UK region.

UK-wide, employment suffered its sharpest decline in more than four years in the three months to August.

The number of people in work declined by 56,000 to 32.69 million in the quarter.

Belfast Telegraph